One Question Quiz
Image: Archi Banal
Image: Archi Banal

SocietyMarch 9, 2023

Help Me Hera: Introducing a new advice column from Hera Lindsay Bird

Image: Archi Banal
Image: Archi Banal

Have all of your life’s problems solved by one of New Zealand’s best and funniest writers.

At long last, it has happened.

I have been given an advice column. I feel like a dog who’s just been made director of one of the largest tennis ball manufacturing plants on the Eastern Seaboard. Or that lady in The Sopranos.

As far as qualifications go, I’m no stranger to the world of human emotion. Perusing online magazine CountryLiving, I was fascinated to read the number of official human emotions has recently been expanded from six to a staggering 27.

In theory, we should count ourselves lucky. In the past, these kinds of sophisticated emotional states just weren’t available to ordinary people. Our grandparents had to be content with the six government-approved modes of feeling (happiness, fear, anger, childbirth, revenge and digging.) But today, people have access to a much wider spectrum of neurophysiological experiences, like “not wanting to go to the pharmacy because you always feel like you’ve stolen something even though you haven’t” and “romance”. Just imagine giving a caveman a Nicholas Sparks novel. It’s unlikely he could even read it, let alone understand it.

But is having more emotions necessarily good? Does feeling more mean feeling better? These days, interpersonal relationships are increasingly complex. In the past, if your wife didn’t love you, that was a valid concern. But now you have to be worried about her saying we’ve been separated for almost five years Ian please stop calling. In such nuanced situations, it’s harder than ever to discern who is right, and who is wrong.

What’s worse, is all the bad people have learned about feelings too, and are using them for evil. And the rest of us are just sitting here and taking it.

There are plenty of advice columnists out there. There’s that one blonde lady who tells you you’re a “wild, unique, fucked-up, beautiful, ugly silver chalice.” There’s gay people, who have access to an even greater spectrum of human emotion, like how Monet could see ultraviolet. There’s even AskReddit, where you can read 12-year-old boys pretending to confiscate their own PlayStations. Do we really need another voice in this already crowded market?

Well, advice is cheap. Advice columnists love throwing out empty platitudes like “create healthy boundaries. Work on your communication skills. Let people see you for who you really are.” Which is all well and good, until you try it for yourself and have to live with the devastating emotional consequences of being vulnerable and open with others.

Some people might balk at taking advice from someone who quit therapy after six weeks because her therapist told her “you seem like a sad person.” But honestly, I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life, and neither do you.

Cicero once said “there is no one who can give you wiser advice than you can give yourself: you will never make a slip, if you listen to your own heart.” Or at least that’s what we think he said. Sadly the Romans were terrible record keepers, and much of their original language has been lost, after the devastating fire at the Library of Alexandria, during the fall of the Roman Empire (4th September, 476 AD). But still, his garbled, ancient words hold some truth. You don’t write into an advice column looking for advice. You write into an advice column looking for validation, leaving out all the wretched details of your own culpability to win an audience of righteous strangers to your depressing cause. Or because you already know what you need to do and can’t bring yourself to do it. Well I’m here to confirm you’ve done absolutely nothing wrong.

I am open to a wide variety of questions, including but not limited to:

  • Is my boyfriend cheating on me, or is it normal to sleep over at your podiatrist’s house?
  • Should I fraudulently pretend to be a nanny to my own children in order to bypass restrictive visitation rights?
  • Why is my personality so horrible, and why is it not my fault?
  • How do I break up with someone and come out of it even more popular and beloved?
  • How do I cope with this crushing existential boredom?
  • Should I wait until my elderly father is dead to publish my scathing childhood memoir
  • Why does the inside of my mouth taste like that?
  • Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay to mould me man? Did I solicit thee from darkness to promote me?

Taking your own advice is good, but taking someone else’s is probably better. After all, if Cicero had listened to a friend, he might still have hands, not to mention a head. Consult your own wicked heart, if you have the stomach for it. But if not, drop me a line, and let’s hash this thing out together.

Want Hera’s help? Email your problem to Me Hera will be published every Thursday and priority will be given to questions submitted by our members.

Keep going!